During the COVID-19 outbreak in Rwanda, I had the opportunity to continue learning about research methods for social science, as part of my ongoing engagement in the Voices of Refugee Youth initiative. It was a great experience, despite the challenges of virtual lecturing for Unit 2 and Unit 3 of the training course. COVID-19 has made learning difficult in Rwanda, particularly for students in secondary schools, universities, and primary schools. Several lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions made it impossible to gather as a group, as we did for Unit 1 before the outbreak in Rwanda. As a result, this blog will focus on my experiences as a refugee, living in a refugee camp in Rwanda, while virtually undertaking the research methods training course offered by Jigsaw and REUK.

We transitioned to doing the research methods training course virtually during the pandemic, starting with Unit 2 of the course from April 26th to May 11th, 2021. In Rwanda, this was a time of significant COVID-19 measures. Physical lecturing was not an option at the time because schools, particularly Rwandan universities, had adopted online course delivery methods. The only choice was to continue the course over the internet, because that was the only way to finish Unit 2 and start collecting data for the second data point of the Voices of Refugee Youth research study. But it was a tough educational experience. It was my first time taking a rigorous virtual class for a course that required a high level of concentration and a conducive learning atmosphere.

The main challenge of virtual learning was that I was in the refugee camp all day while taking the research methods course. It was difficult to go online because my laptop’s battery could only last for about an hour, and it was difficult to connect to an electricity supply. However, I could occasionally use the tablet (provided by Jigsaw and REUK for the research study) in order to stay connected after my laptop’s battery died.

The learning mode (using a variety of online platforms) for the research methods training course was a new learning experience. It was my first time using Canvas, which was really new for me. However, I learnt how to use it, and was able to apply it later in the course. The skills I learnt in Unit 2 paved the way for Unit 3, because when I started lectures for Unit 3, I had an idea of what I was going to have to do online. Using Google Drive was troublesome for me as well; whenever I was required to complete an assignment, it had to be shared with all the course facilitators in order for them to mark it. However, the facilitators’ guidance during the virtual sessions gave me the courage to participate in each step, because every facilitator was committed to helping me if I became confused or needed assistance.

Throughout the virtual training for the research methods course, I’ve learned a lot. There are a few things that I believe are essential for anyone who is undergoing virtual learning for any subject. Firstly, a person must be open and honest about what he or she knows or does not know. It is difficult to assess a person’s knowledge and skills through virtual learning, and therefore, because a facilitator does not have access to everyone in person, a student must be sincere about what s/he understands. This can help a facilitator to return to a specific topic to ensure that their teaching on a particular subject is well captured.

I also advise anyone to prepare well and take the learning process seriously, so that his or her mind is prepared to engage with each topic. As a result, the student will achieve a good outcome and a clear understanding throughout the virtual learning process. It is important to be honest with oneself and with a facilitator in order to complete virtual training to a high level of knowledge and skill. Discipline combined with determination can lead anyone to achieve their goals, regardless of the obstacles they face along the way.

To summarise, in the virtual training for the research methods course, I faced numerous problems, including a lack of familiarity with the platform, a challenging learning environment, and the need to develop certain online skills, particularly with Google Sheets. Persevering through all of this, however, resulted in excellent learning and the ability to use Google Drive with either documents or spreadsheets. These are excellent new skills, in addition to the knowledge I gained from Jigsaw and REUK’s virtual research methods training. Above all, virtual learning ought to be taken seriously; otherwise, a learner may risk not being able to benefit from the training.

It was a huge accomplishment to complete the virtual training for Units 2 and 3 of the research methods course. Overall, it was a delight to have such an experience because it helped me to mold my thinking and better grasp research methods and remote learning systems.